• 31 B

    Posted on November 14, 2018 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    More than right answers needed.

    Introduction:  This Sunday’s Gospel takes place after Jesus has finished his journey on the “Way” and he has arrived in Jerusalem.  Jesus enters the city not as a pilgrim, but rather as a popular king.  He receives the acclaim of the crowds.  But this entrance is immediately followed by a series of conflicts.  Today’s Gospel is the culmination of this series.  But it is a bit ambiguous.  Is the scribe who comes to Jesus hostile to him, as were the Pharisees and some of the Herodians who tried to trap him, or the Saducees who came to challenge him?

    Homily:  The key to the Gospel is Jesus’ answer to this scribe. Jesus gives his answer to the question “”Which is the first of all the commandments?” But then Jesus adds something no one has asked him “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. He brings together two widely separated commands (the first is found in the book of Deuteronomy, the second in the book of Leviticus).  While each of these is warmly commended by the Rabbis, so far as is known no one save Jesus has brought them together.  Surprisingly the scribe not only appears to agree wholeheartedly with Jesus’ assessment but reinforces it with allusions to the scriptures that give priority to obedience over the Temple cult.  The scribe is willing to go this far.  Jesus recognizes that he is “thoughtful” (he answered with understanding).  The scribe has intellectually grasped what Jesus has said. Though Jesus praises his understanding, he does not invite him to follow him.  The reason is that the scribes are committed to a system that oppresses. According to Mark’s narrative, exploitation is precisely what is perpetuated by the system the scribes uphold. The sovereignty of God demands more than orthodoxy and intellectual assent;  there must be the practice of justice. The risk of perverting life by living a selfish religion is always great. “The love of God which excludes the neighbor comes down to a lie.  If we do not love our neighbor, we do not love the Father of all.” It would seem to me that those who proclaim the “prosperity gospel” are attempting to live with this contradiction. I read a post recently that said “don’t proclaim: ‘put Christ back into Christmas’ but: ‘put Christ back into Christianity.’ In a scathing article a disgusted Evangelical Scholar, Berny Belvedere, explains how political operatives have managed to slip new ideas into the evangelical belief system –such as a staunch belief in unfettered capitalism –that are nowhere to be found within the Bible. “Within American conservative Christianity, what these leaders do is funnel biblical content, cultural distinctives, and national tropes in a mix that ordinary believers imbibe as what it means to be authentically Christian. …And it is this essential corruption of the basic tenets of Christianity that have opened the door for evangelicals to embrace Trump, who is a walking violation of the Ten Commandments.” (Disgusted Evangelical Scholar Details How Christian ‘Grifters and Status-Seekers’ Paved the Way for Trump)

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    Evangelical Christian praying over President Trump

        The debating and conflict section of the Jerusalem narrative closes with a declaration of “victory” for Jesus.

    The kind of group attachment that characterized the cultural world of Jesus is highly desired but difficult to attain in Western culture.  As precious a cultural value as it is, Western individualism proves to be the biggest obstacle to community.  We westerners tend to be very pragmatic with regard to group attachment.  We join a group and remain members only as long as the group meets our personal needs.  When it fails to do so, we drop out and join another group on similar terms.

    This passage is another of those incidences where we do not know “the rest of the Story.”  We do know that Jesus does not invite this man to follow him, but we don’t know what became of him.  It would seem that we are being taught that having the right words isn’t enough, we must follow the words with consistent actions for justice.

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